"" Writer's Wanderings: Athens, Greece

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Athens, Greece


Athens. While parts might be ancient, most of it is a bustling metropolis. But let me start with the port, Piraeus. It too is a large city and a good sized port that services Athens. We awoke to the announcement that the ship was cleared and we could go ashore. Then there was the announcement that onboard for those guests continuing on in the next segment was 10:30 pm the next night. There there was the announcement that there was a shuttle from where we were docked to the cruise terminal. We were totally awake by then.

Bob had done some research and found a local express bus that went from the port to the city center of Athens. I was a little nervous, I must admit. We've tried local transportation before and it isn't always easy. After breakfast, we took the shuttle which only drove a little ways down the pier to the terminal. We could have walked it just as fast.

Outside the terminal, there was a pedestrian walkway that led out of the port area to a spot on the street where there were a lot of buses lined up. None of them were the X80 that we needed. Bob asked one driver of another bus and he just pointed to the sign I was under that said X80 and shrugged. Okay.

We waited about five more minutes and lo and behold, the bus with X80 across the top arrived and stopped. There was one other couple that got on with us who had done this before on another trip so we rode together to the ticket office that was actually in the port area or just across from one of the terminals. We bought our roundtrip tickets for 4.10 euros (about $4.40 USD) and we were on our way.

The trip to Syntagma Square which is a popular place in the city center and near the Parliament Building which also has the tomb of the unknown soldier. We had been in Athens and done a tour a few years ago and the driver had taken us to the palace to see the changing of the guard. We wanted to watch it again. It's quite impressive.

The bus trip took between 30-40 minutes, most of which was on a freeway but the beginning of it took us around another harbor and marina for yachts and sailboats that was very picturesque. The bus also had a stop at the Acropolis but we passed on that. Been there, done that, didn't want to climb up again.

The bus dropped us right in front of a McDonald's so it would be easy to find the stop again. We had already passed the tomb and saw a crowd watching the changing of the guard at the 10 o'clock hour. With a little time to kill before the next change, we opted for coffee at McD's and with it the opportunity for a potty stop. The coffee was way too strong but the restroom was nice and clean. With your order you received a code on your receipt that got you into the restrooms. 

We made it back to the tomb just in time to watch the ceremony for the changing of the guard. They make a strange choreographed step, swinging their leg out and back before taking a step. The replacements were wearing white uniforms rather than the beige ones worn by the guards at the earlier hour. 

Once the change of positions was accomplished, another soldier in camo uniform approached each guard and made sure his pleated skirt was in order as well as his vest, the tail on his hat and his vest was adjusted just right. Once each passed muster, the soldier stepped away and the guards were left to finish their hour of duty at attention, not blinking, for the rest of the hour.

It was getting close to the noon hour and we sat for a bit in the park in the square deciding what we wanted to do. My GPS My City app showed a few things close to us but nothing that really interested us.

"How about lunch here somewhere?" I suggested. "By the time we get back to the ship it will be past time for lunch." It wasn't that we couldn't get food. It was more that it would be past our usual lunchtime. A friend asked how we stay healthy on our travels and aside from frequent hand washing and Purell, I think some of it has to do with trying to keep to a schedule of meals and sleep. We establish a routine and stick to it as much as possible.

A ways down the street from the square we found a nice restaurant that had tables just off the sidewalk and out of the congestion. The menu was quite extensive with all sorts of appetizers, plates and larger meals. We ordered an appetizer of skewered meatballs that came with a little salad, some diced tomato and a small pita with yogurt underneath it. We also ordered some pita on the side. It was perfect. Just enough to satisfy and get a taste of Greek food as well.

Our wait for the bus was not long. The neat thing was that there was an electronic display that showed its estimated arrival time. We boarded, tapped our tickets on the meter box that was just inside the door and we were on our way. The trip home took less time than it had getting to the square.

And we planned to do it all again in the morning. You see on Sundays at 11 we found out that they do the changing of the guard with a band. So, why not? We know how to get there and I'm up for another Greek lunch at that restaurant. 

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